Chinese luxury markets avoid South-east Asia

SOUTH-EAST Asian destinations are falling out of favour with Chinese-speaking luxury travellers, who have reacted to the martial law in Thailand, the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines’ MH370 and the anti-Chinese sentiment in Vietnam and the Philippines.

Farrington American Express Travel Hong Kong assistant manager, marketing/product development, Yvonne Yu, said: “Thailand is practically a second home for Hong Kongers, but some people are also sensitive so they are staying away.

“Before the (coup), travellers were actually going back (to Thailand), but now they are heading to Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea. Business has dropped by more than 50 per cent.”

While South-east Asia has always been the company’s bread and butter, more consumers are looking longhaul and in search of unique experiences. South America is one new destination that Yu is looking to sell.

Fanny Zhao, operation manager, Diadema China, said: “South-east Asia has great luxury products. Vietnam, for example, has The Nam Hai in Hoi An. However, the biggest obstacle to selling more of South-east Asia is the political issues and unrest in the region.”

Japan is also a no-go because of the disputed islands in the East China Sea, she added. Instead, clients are opting for Europe/US as well as South Pole/Antarctica.

“We expect to have 1,000 people buying our South Pole/Antarctica holidays, compared to 300 last year,” said Zhao.

Meanwhile, HH Travel China, which is part of Ctrip, is also seeing a slide in demand for South-east Asia.

Director, product centre, South-east Asia Division, Anny Chen, said: “Last year was a better year for Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam.”

Popular now are North Asia as well as cruising in Oceania.

Almost 500 high-end travel consultants from 21 countries across Asia-Pacific are attending this year’s ILTM Asia, with the show running until Thursday, June 5.

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